Sunday, September 25, 2011

Part One: exPOEse'

Elizabeth Willis Barrett
May 31, 2010

Betsy Woodward was the kind of woman that every woman envied. Well, at least the women in the LDS 7th Ward of Gilbert. Her home was spotless, her children well behaved and popular, her husband handsome and successful. When her visiting teachers came each month, Betsy’s home smelled of homemade bread and her living room, which is, of course, the only room that Visiting Teachers ever see, looked like a Thomasville showroom.

While waiting at the front door—totally devoid of cobwebs—her Visiting Teachers could hear Betsy singing a very cheerful ditty. This proved that along with everything else in Betsy’s favor, she didn’t have an ounce of depression. Here was a woman polished to perfection and untouchable by anyone in the boundaries of the 7th Ward. It was a bit intimidating.

When Betsy went to her son Mark’s football games, she looked more like one of the students with her slim body and fashionable clothes. Mark was, of course, the quarterback and the greatest reason for the team’s success. Her daughter, Elise, was excellent at ballet or so everyone said and her youngest son, Benjamin, had the sweetest personality in the whole Primary.

The women of the 7th Ward Relief Society didn’t know Betsy as well as most of them knew each other since she had only been in their ward for a year. But they knew enough. They knew that besides the aforementioned kids, Betsy had three older children—two at BYU and one on a mission. If that didn’t signify parental success, what did? They also knew that she lived in the most beautiful home in the ward, that she drove a very nice car, and that she could sing like an angel. All of this excellence made Betsy quite unapproachable, so she didn’t have any close friends in the ward and didn’t get invited to go to lunch at Flancer’s or to go shopping for curtain or pillow fabrics at Mesa Sales. And she and her husband never got asked to parties at ward members’ homes nor did their family ever get invited to Family Home Evening. Betsy said she didn’t care. But she did—a little.

Actually, Betsy exerted a conscious effort to create a façade of perfection. Impressions were important to her and she worked hard at keeping hers favorable. It wasn’t difficult to impress her Visiting Teachers because they always called ahead. She could make sure the living room was picked up, dusted and vacuumed and smelled like Bath and Body Works’ Coconut Lime before they came. And timing it just right, Betsy could pop some frozen Rhodes Cinnamon Rolls into the oven with their tantalizing aroma at its peak when the sisters sat down to give her the lesson.

Betsy loved to hear comments like, “Your home is so lovely.” or “How do you do it?” or “You’re amazing!”
Betsy made it a specific point to look terrific when she went to Church each Sunday as she smilingly led her attractive children down the aisle to the second row on the right, giving a little smile and lift of the head in greeting to her husband, Nick, who sat on the stand as a member of the Bishopric. She’d scoot the three kids in first, always glad when they got there before the elderly Brother and Sister Johnson. Betsy had to put on some extra speed at home so she could beat the Johnsons out of that particular pew. The Woodwards had been sitting there for some time now and the Johnsons had become usurpers. No one needed to know that on most Sundays, Betsy’s family had had a miserable morning of quarreling as each searched franticly for just the right Sunday clothes and hurriedly downed a bowl of Lucky Charms so they could be there seven minutes early, much to the annoyance of the children.

No one had ever seen Betsy Woodward looking less than her best because Betsy made sure they didn’t.

Betsy didn’t participate in too many ward activities, but she did join the Book Club which met once a month. It had been an enjoyable enough activity until this month. This month of October. Someone had thought it would be fun to read The Selected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe and have the meeting on October 13th, which happened to be a Friday. Friday the Thirteenth. So fitting, they all thought. Way back in January, Betsy had thought it was a good idea, too, and had even signed up to be October’s hostess. But the calendar pages had whipped off as in a hurricane and October had arrived way before Betsy’s plans for purging and perfecting every single room could be accomplished.

Because of found minutes during ballgames, dance lessons and in the bathroom, Betsy could actually say she had read the book. But it hadn’t been pleasant and as the raven quothed: “Nevermore!” Life was definitely too short to read Edgar Allan Poe. She discovered that many of Poe’s words would come back to her with amazing clarity and at odd moments.

And now today, Friday the 13th of October, Betsy wished she had never heard of Poe or the Book Club and definitely wished she had never put her name on the line to be the hostess. Her house wasn’t as ready as she had wanted it to be and she knew that several of the women had planned on her giving them a tour. That’s what happens when you live in a beautiful home—everyone wants to see it. And she had wanted them to see it but now that today was here, this was not the day.

In fact, this wasn’t a day for anything. Betsy would have chosen to take a few sleeping pills, crawl back into bed, scoot her knees up to her chest in a fetal position and wait for the Second Coming. It was definitely not a day for company. In the words of Poe, she had “a strong desire to lapse into insensibility.”

1 comment:

DianD said...

You tell a good story! With all your busy life, how do you find time to write? Amazing lady!